Charles A. Beard

Beard in 1917, from the [[George Grantham Bain]] Collection, Library of Congress Charles Austin Beard (November 27, 1874 – September 1, 1948) was, with Frederick Jackson Turner, one of the most influential American historians of the first half of the 20th century. For a while he was a history professor at Columbia University but his influence came from hundreds of monographs, textbooks and interpretive studies in both history and political science. His works included a radical re-evaluation of the founding fathers of the United States, who he believed were motivated more by economics than by philosophical principles. Beard's most influential book, ''An Economic Interpretation of the Constitution of the United States ''(1913), has been the subject of great controversy ever since its publication. While frequently criticized for its methodology and conclusions, it was responsible for a wide-ranging reinterpretation of American history of the founding era. He was also the co-author with his wife Mary Beard of ''The Rise of American Civilization'' (1927), which had a major influence on American historians.

An icon of the progressive school of historical interpretation, his reputation suffered during the Cold War era when the assumption of economic class conflict was dropped by most historians. Richard Hofstadter (a consensus historian) concluded in 1968: "Today Beard's reputation stands like an imposing ruin in the landscape of American historiography. What was once the grandest house in the province is now a ravaged survival".

Conversely, Denis W Brogan believed that Beard lost favour in the Cold War not because his views had been proven to be wrong, but because Americans were less willing to hear them. In 1965 he wrote; "The suggestion that the Constitution had been a successful attempt to restrain excessive democracy, that it had been a triumph for property (and) big business seemed blasphemy to many and an act of near treason in the dangerous crisis through which American political faith and practice were passing".

Hofstadter nevertheless praised Beard, saying he was "foremost among the American historians of his or any generation in the search for a usable past". Provided by Wikipedia
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